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Safe text stops

Published October 29. 2013 4:00AM

Penalties in the form of fines and points on a driver's license, resulting in higher insurance premiums, are a couple of ways to encourage drivers to avoid the dangerous practice of texting and driving. However, it would also be a good idea to help drivers find safe places to park, text and use their cell phones when traveling on state highways.

New York State recently undertook that approach. The Empire State now features nearly 300 signs on its highways informing drivers of approaching "Text Stop" areas where they can park to both safely and legally use their mobile devices to communicate. Among those expressing interest in Connecticut undertaking such a strategy, reports The Connecticut Mirror, is state Sen. Andy Maynard, D-Stonington, co-chair of the Transportation Committee.

For good or ill, and probably a bit of both, the notion that people are to be accessible through texts, emails and cellphone calls is now an expectation in business and, to a large extent, in life generally. Arguably, individuals should be able to figure out for themselves where they can safely pull over to use their electronic gadgets. Yet for a relatively modest investment, adding a new set of text alert signs to the highway signage system could be both a service to drivers and a reminder that such communications can and should wait until arriving at a safe spot.

In Connecticut, these safe havens could include rest stops, parking areas and commuter lots.

It raises another issue, the need for Connecticut to add more rest areas. A state Department of Transportation study concluded Connecticut needed 1,200 more rest area parking spaces, and that was 12 years ago. The legislature need not await a solution to that shortfall, however, before it authorizes text signs.

Fines for illegal use of a mobile communication device while driving range from $125 to $150 for a first offense to up to $500 for three, or more, repeat offenses. Unfortunately, many still take the chance, despite the overwhelming evidence that it greatly increases the chance of causing an accident. Maybe knowing they can pull off in a mile to check and respond to texts, will persuade at least some obsessive texters to wait.

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